Small Leaks Sink Great Ships

If there was an award for frivolous, pointless spending – I would have been the lucky recipient ten times over. It would shock you (and me!) if I was to know the total of money I have simply wasted. Everything from buying food and letting it go to waste to making extravagant purchases while on nights out (flights, concert tickets to name a couple)– I would be a very rich woman right now if I had been wiser with money over the years. But alas, I was not and I am where I am.  

Benjamin Franklin once said – “A small leak will sink a great ship”, and that’s as relevant to us all today, as it was in the 1700’s. Small purchases can add up quickly. Just think about that trip to Penneys to “have a quick look” – €100 later and you’ve a bag full of socks, candles and clothes that you might wear. Or the scroll through Amazon while you’re watching tv in the evening – before you know it the postman is arriving with little brown packages that you really didn’t need. And it’s not just shopping trips or online browsing – even popping to the shop for milk or bread; you see crisps on offer, chocolate reduced and oh look – there’s a fiver off that wine you like! The trip for bread and milk suddenly costs you €20.  

So how can we stop this type of spending and ensure our small leaks don’t sink our savings ship? We plan. We organise. We spend consciously. We use what we have. I thought I’d share some examples of real-life scenarios, showing the choices I previously would have made, compared with the choices I will make going forward.  

Scenario 1 – On the way home after a long day 

🙁 Zero feet in the save:  “I know I have food at home that I could make a lovely dinner with, but I’m hungry now so I’ll just grab a takeaway on the way home” 

😊 One Foot in the Save: “It has been a long day – I’m so glad I have my dinner prepped for when I get home” 

Outcome: I won’t be wasting the food I have and I’ll have that €10/€20 to spend on something else. 

Scenario 2 – Doing the grocery shopping 

🙁 Zero feet in the save: “These new chocolate bars look so good – I don’t know what flavour to try, so will go with all three”  

😊 One Foot in the Save: “They are the new bars I saw advertised, but I have plenty of chocolate at home. When that’s gone, I’ll give these new bars a try” 

Outcome: Again, I won’t be wasting what I already have at home and I have a few extra euro when I leave the shop. 

Scenario 3 – Buying make-up online 

🙁 Zero feet in the save: “I only need to buy mascara, but if I spend €75 I get a free surprise skincare treat so I’ll add in a  few more things” 

😊 One Foot in the Save: “I just need to buy mascara, the free skincare goodies will likely be sample sizes and I have enough skincare as it is – I simply don’t need it” 

Outcome: I’m not ending up with junk I won’t use and I just buy what I actually need. 

Scenario 4 – Starting a new fitness class 

🙁 Zero feet in the save: “I better buy new trainers, a few new bottoms and some nice new tops so I feel really psyched for my new class” 

😊 One Foot in the Save: “I have plenty of good trainers and fitness gear, and what I wear won’t make a difference to how I get on with the class” 

Outcome: I’m wearing what I already own, I’m not wasting money and I’m not contributing to the overflowing wardrobes. 

Scenario 5 – Browsing on Amazon 

🙁 Zero feet in the save: “Oh there’s a new Food Blender at a good price. I do have a food blender, but this one comes with loads of attachments that I could use for so much” 

😊 One Foot in the Save: “It does look like a good blender, but I really do have one that’s been working just fine. Realistically I’ll never use the attachments. I’ll add it to my Wish List and if I find that I need it down the road, I’ll know it’s there” 

Outcome: I use what I have, I don’t waste money, I get out of the habit of constantly always having to have the newest items. 

So though these are examples of small purchases, that really don’t seem to matter at the time of spending – they really quickly and easily add up. It’s not the takeaway, chocolate bar or new trainers that’s the problem – it’s the bad habits developed from years of not thinking/not planning. I have not had a good thought process with my spending habits. Like Chris and Gwyneth, I’m going to consciously uncouple from my bad spending habits! It’s a new way of thinking; a more conscious approach to money.  

From now on, I’ll use these three questions to understand if I truly need something: 

  1. Do I have one/similar at home? 
  2. Am I going to waste something else by buying this? 
  3. Have I planned for this purchase? 

How about you, are you wasting money on small purchases? Could you too benefit from a more conscious approach to spending?  

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